On Friday last week, the bidding on a Super Mario Bros. 3 prototype cart came to a close at Heritage Auctions with a winning bid of $31,200. This is the first Nintendo-developed prototype that Heritage Auctions has listed. While the cartridge might look like a copy of Kid Icarus that’s been hacked apart, it’s so much more than that. The label’s handwritten “Super 3” is a glimpse into the past, when developers were hurriedly dumping code before testing to see the results of their changes. The cart had been physically opened to allow developers convenient access to to the EPROMs (easily programmable read-only memory).
This Super Mario Bros. 3 prototype ended as the 16th highest-selling auction item that Heritage Auctions has conducted in the video game category. It’s well behind the $360,000 that the Nintendo Play Station sold for. It also sold for less than a Wata 9.0-graded version of Super Mario Bros. 3. That listing hit $38,400 and was a commercially released version of the game. However, this was a sealed copy of the game, which makes it exponentially more valuable than a loose copy. Some people, myself included, would argue that a prototype cart is far more interesting and valuable.
Hopefully its new owner is generous about sharing its contents.